California Coast

Jane and I were up bright and early this morning (unlike the sun) and out the door before Zack was awake. We hiked our way down Broadway Street to the Ferry Building, which took just over an hour, and purchased four tickets to Larkspur Landing. Forty-five minutes later Peter, Dorothy, Jane and myself were sitting on the San Francisco to Larkspur ferry while the waves, wind and rain did their best to upset our journey. My second cousin, once removed, Charlotte had arranged to meet us at the ferry terminal, but heavy traffic (70 miles at 20 mph) meant that she was delayed. But sooner or later (later!) we were back on the road and heading up Highway 101 towards the coast.

Much of the day was spent exploring the Californian countryside and coast, and although the wind and rain conspired against us it didn’t hamper our enjoyment and actually held off for our brief excursions outside the car. First we drove through Bodega Bay, the town where some of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed, to a vista point where we were able to sit and watch the Pacific Ocean crash against the coast, and seals playfully testing the surf. Many photographs were taken, and the sun even appeared for a moment, and with it a patch of blue sky and a rainbow.
Further up the coast, at Jenner, we looked at the mouth of the Russian River and discovered that nowhere was open for lunch there either.
We eventually stopped at Duncans Mills (I know! where is the apostrophe!?) for something to eat before exploring the Redwood groves at the Armstrong Woods near Geuserville. This was a perfect opportunity to escape the SUV for a while and walk off some of our lunch. On the path we came across a brass sign giving information about the Colonel Armstrong redwood, a massive tree over 1400 years old and 14 feet in diameter; the notice was also translated into braille above the English text. I couldn’t help noticing, however, that the sign was facing the opposite direction to the tree. So that, even if a blind chap was standing reading the braille notice even though he couldn’t see the tree HE WOULDN’T EVEN BE FACING THE RIGHT DIRECTION!

Following our brief jaunt in the forest, we returned east to Highway 101 and to Healdsburg, where we checked out Char’s house (where I had stayed all last week) before visiting Carol for drinks. Our last stop for the night, before we returned to the city, was Fitch Mountain Eddie’s for dinner, where again we disgraced ourselves by eating our own body weight in burgers.

Tomorrow is a free day; a quiet day; a lounging around, reading and writing day. Peter and Dorothy are coming over for lunch, and in the evening we’re heading over to cousin Jessica’s in the Castro for pizza dinner. Bring it on!

Experience Seattle Project

We took the elevator to the top of the Space Needle; it cost us $12.50 each for the privilege. Still, the view from the top was amazing. Jane considered the journey up (travelling at 10 mph) to be one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. There is a Starbucks at the top (of course!). We sat admiring the view supping a cardboard cup of hot chocolate.

Safely back on terra firma we crossed the Seattle Center park to part with more money ($19.50 each) to be allowed admission to the Experience Music Project (EMP), which began life as a Jimi Hendrix Museum and is now dedicated to telling the story of Rock’n’Roll. As my Mum rightly said in a text: real culture! I enjoyed most the guitar sculpture, made from well over 100 guitars, 40 of which play automatically; and the Jimi Hendrix exhibition.

Getting hungry, we took the monorail into town and having safely posted some gifts back home to Edinburgh (to save us from ruining them in our over-crowded baggage) we found an amazing sandwich bar before finding a bus to the airport.

Dave Gorman is right! Sea-Tac airport is the most cinnamon-est smelling airport in the world. The reason is Cinnabon a fast-food vendor that specializes in cinnamon-tasting baked goods. We were delighted, it didn’t smell at all Cinnamon-y when we arrived.

We’re now safely back in San Francisco. Zack ordered us Chinese food, which arrived in those cardboard cartons you see on American TV shows, and we watched the second episode of My Big, Fat, Obnoxious Fiance.

Tomorrow we take the ferry from SF to Larkspur, and meeting up with Charlotte Anderson we’ll take a tour of the coast and Redwood forest at Armstrong Grove. (It’ll be another late update of this blog.)

An Orthodox Visit

I haven’t seen Mark T. Powell (aka Empty Bowel; M. Tea Towel) since I was living in London, so that was probably 1997, but seeing him again it could have easily been last month: we picked up from where we left off. I’d never met his wife, Kathleen, or his daughters Ann-Marie and Sarah.

Our arrival on Saturday evening allowed us time to sit and chat with Mark, Kathleen and Ann-Marie, who was a little wary of us to begin with. It was so good to catch up, reminisce about NYC and laugh. Mark had found and dug out the t-shirt that Danny Curtis and I had hand-made for him on his final course at Durham in ’91.

On Sunday morning we joined the family at church. Mark and folks are members of a Greek Orthodox congregation, so we sat in the second pew and spent the next hour and a half in a fluctuating state of awe and bewilderment. The singing was amazing and quite moving. Not being members of the Orthodox church we were denied communion, although we were allowed to eat the bread afterwards. I found that really quite difficult and was incredibly down for the rest of the day, which rather surprised me. In the afternoon, following an All-American Breakfast ™ of sausages, eggs and home-made waffles we were taken into town to expore Pike Street Market, complete with flying fish! We finished the day, following a delicious dinner of curry and cous-cous (?!) watching the film BEST in SHOW by Christopher Guest. A fine and humourous end to a fine and (at times) humourous day.

This morning (Monday) Mark kindly dropped us in town outside the Seattle Center (spelling!) and the Space Needle.

Cyberless In Seattle (Updated)

We didn’t have access to the internet while we were in Seattle, hence the hiatus in our live broadcast. But we flew in to San Francisco this evening after an amazing weekend in grunge-tastic Seattle.

Thankfully (and disappointingly) the BBC weather forecast for Seattle and SeaTac airport was awry: we had no snow; we had no rain. The weather was familarly Scottish: overcast and cold. Our reception there, from both Team Lothian and Team Powell, was quite the opposite.

But not, however, by the airport security team. I’d foolishly left my Swiss Army Knife in my hand-luggage bag which, of course, got picked up on the x-ray. I felt so foolish, but the security guy was really cool about it all. I had three options: (1) check my baggage in to the hold, (2) have my knife destroyed, or (3) mail it back to where we were staying in SF. After some deliberation with Jane I took option three, and I was given an envelope onto which to write the address of the guesthouse. And a pen. Then I legged it down an escalator, past baggage reclaim to the US Post Office. Except it wasn’t what I was expecting. In the UK if it says US Post Office it implies that there will be humans there, not a massage great big, automated vending machine that sells a million different types of stamps in small packages. I took a guess, fed in a $5 bill, punched in the co-ordinates for the stamp I wanted and soon was legging it back up the corridor towards security. Did I mention I had only 15 minutes to do all of this in?

The second time I went through security I was stopped again. This time my belt had set off the door-frame metal detector. But why hadn’t it been set off the first time I went through? Surely this was worrying. If my belt had been snuck through the first time but not the second time, what else was being smuggled through security undetected? The flight was uneventful: we boarded; we sat; the plane took off; we sat some more; the plane landed; we disembarked.

Jane and I were picked up in his Honda van from the airport on Saturday afternoon by cousin Gary Lothian and driven to his house in north Seattle, where we met his lovely wife (I know they read this blog!) Megan, and her companion dog. They have an amazing house, filled with books, music and laughter; just our place. Gary is also a Tom Waits fan, so we listening to some Waits as sung by an all female group, the name of which escapes me. We drank and nibbled, and chatted and laughed. It was so good to meet them, such a delight to make a personal connection with family on the other side of the world and to get along with them so easily.

It was easy to see that we were related when the rest of the group arrived about 90 minutes after they were supposed to. The Late Lothian family meet The Late Saunders family. We were joined by John Lothian, James Lothian and family, and Shari. The drinking continued; more nibbles arrived; and the conversation flowed. Photographs were shared and new ones taken. Far too soon people had to leave, and shortly after the house was emptied Gary drove us the 3.3 miles north to Edmonds and deposited us with my old friend from National Youth Choir days: Mark T. Powell.